With a new Catalan state emerging, people across Europe can start talking about what sort of Europe we want
Catalonia has left Spain. It is not just a result of Sunday’s referendum, a 90 percent vote for independence with a remarkable turnout of 42 percent by voters defying the batons, sledgehammers and plastic bullets of Spain’s Guardia Civil. It lies with the decision of the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to use repression to stop a people voting. That decision, backed by the opposition Socialist Party, has drawn a line between Catalonia and Spain for a majority of Catalans, many of whom might have voted No on Sunday before Rajoy unleashed the Guardia Civil.
That decision confirmed Catalans in their view that the Madrid government would concede them nothing and that a state, never purged following the death of the dictator General Franco, was still rooted in dealing a heavy hand to democracy when matters challenged its interests.
The timescale for Catalan independence is not clear – as I write the Catalan government is considering declaring independence. Even if they do it will still have to be won. That will require continuing the mass, peaceful and dignified protests and direct action, starting with the general strike called tomorrow. It will mean a careful strategy of taking over more and more of what the Spanish state still controls in the region.
That begins with mobilising too to defend the institutions of the aspiring Catalan state – its government, offices and officials in the sorts of ways people defended their polling stations yesterday. It means winning over the Catalan police, Mossos d’Esquadra, who in some places yesterday clashed with the Guardia Civil in order to protect voters from their batons.
Across Catalonia plans are in place for citizens assemblies across different sectors of society. They can form the basis for the new state which is being born.
That new arrival requires solidarity. Across Europe we need to turn on the European Union and demand it acts against a Spanish government which has acted against European law by attacking its own citizens and trying to deny them the right to vote. The European Commission needs to stop issuing threats to Catalonia and recognise reality. That is not something which will come easy to it so there needs to be pressure from below.
The emergence of the Catalan state also means people across Europe can begin to open up a much needed debate about what sort of Europe we want, one that recognises the rights of small nations and does not operate in the interests of a handful of big states. Solidarity is also required in Spain. The Spanish left too much drop the policy of its majority which is to oppose Catalan independence.
Catalonia has left the building. The main enemy is Rajoy and the Spanish state. Now is the time to turn on the state and Spain and to fight to achieve the transformation which never happened following the death of Franco, when the main left parties agreed to leave it untouched.
Here in Britain we also need to build solidarity, bringing together all those who spoke out against Rajoy’s repression. That is well underway in Scotland and in Wales, with the Scottish government speaking up for Catalonia’s right to vote and then condemning Rajoy’s violence, and with Plaid Cymru doing their upmost to support the Catalans. Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to finally speak out yesterday was welcome. On Sunday we saw a 1000 people on the streets of Edinburgh and three or four hundred mainly Catalans rally in London. More of that will be needed so let us get down to work to support newly independent Catalonia.
Chris Bambery is an author, political activist and commentator, and a supporter of Rise, the radical left wing coalition in Scotland. His books include A People's History of Scotland and The Second World War: A Marxist Analysis.